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Choughs return to Rathlin Island

29/06/2011 10:29:33
birds/birds_2011_june/chough_rathlin_hay

Two rare chough have fledged on the RSPB’s reserve on Rathlin Island. Photography by Andy Hay/rspb-images.com

Choughed with success

June 2011. RSPB Northern Ireland is celebrating a year of rare returns with the fledging of two choughs on Rathlin Island just a week after announcing the return of the golden plover to Co Fermanagh.

Choughs
A member of the crow family, the chough is distinctive with its red feet and beak. However, unlike the rest of its family, it has been slowly disappearing from the Northern Irish landscape and over the past ten years has made an on-again, off-again appearance around the North Antrim coast.

Working with farmers at Dunseverick and Fairhead, the RSPB has seen the tantalising prospect of the birds' reestablishment come and go over the years. However, with the purchase of land on Rathlin Island five years ago, along with the careful management of the area, the prospects of this charismatic bird greatly improved.

"This is the first time chough have bred on the nature reserve since it was bought and specifically managed for it," said Liam McFaul, RSPB Warden Rathlin Island. "Chough had bred on Rathlin two years ago, but it wasn't on our reserve. This is a testament to how nature does recover if we give it a helping hand. I speak for all of the RPSB here - our members, staff, volunteers and our partners - when I say how delighted we are and hope that this will be a sign of things to come."

Missing for 10 years
Chough became extinct as a regular breeding bird in Northern Ireland just over ten years ago. The NIEA have had a Biodiversity Action Plan for the bird to help it recover. The NIEA funded the purchase of the land as well as its management, and the reestablishment of the birds here has been regarded as a tremendous success.

"NIEA are very pleased to see this important landmark achieved for this iconic coastal species. Hopefully, the land acquisition by RSPB and its management for chough, marks the beginning of an expansion for this vulnerable species. While the focus of interest here is the chough, this is also an example of wider conservation gains as habitat management is also beneficial for a range of plants and other animals," said Ian Enlander, NIEA.

Read more about Rathlin Island Cliffs RSPB 

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Dr Richard Meyer

This is good news. What form does the "management" take? Choughs lived on Rathlin before any specific management was done. I would like to know if this management is simply restitution of grazing on cliff tops and slopes, or whether it is management of the hinterland. In my research of Choughs in West Wales, the natural cliffscape, where vegetation is kept down by natural forces and exposure, was by far the optimum feeding habitat. This can certainly be improved by grazing and browsing as happened historically.

Posted by: Dr Richard Mark Meyer | 06 Jul 2011 08:56:09

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